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Training Matters: Where the class of 2015 ended up

Jemima Owen, left, receives the reporting award from Archant's Laura Adams and NCTJ chairman Kim FletcherA  new report investigating the job destinations of NCTJ students has been published today.

The independent research is based on a survey of 205 individuals who studied for the NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism who were contacted within 6-10 months of completing their course.

NCTJ chairman Kim Fletcher considers the findings and what they mean for the charity.

The good news is that journalists with NCTJ qualifications are getting jobs: the bad news is that the pay is poor.

When students who had studied on our accredited courses were asked what they were doing now, some 82 per cent said they were in work, compared with 70 per cent of leavers from higher education courses across all subjects. But their median salary was £17,500, some £3,000 less than the level for all graduates from higher education.

We’ve known for years that journalism is rarely a way to wealth, but financial challenges have done little to dent the enthusiasm of those attracted to the trade. Rather, the question has been finding a way in.

Does a diploma help? It looks as if it does. The figures above came in a survey commissioned by the NCTJ, seeking to discover what was happening to students who studied for our diploma qualification, whether on MA, undergraduate, academic year, part-time or fast-track courses. Studying for the Diploma in Journalism is a big commitment, not least in financial terms. We needed to know what had happened to those who had studied for it.

All journalists should be sceptical about surveys, which have become the basis for too many news stories. It is easy to make sweeping assertions involving big populations on the basis of small sample sizes. We know too there are many successful journalists who have barely passed any examination, let alone an NCTJ diploma. Yet the findings of this report, based on 205 responses, is encouraging.

Most of those in work who responded to the survey were in the creative media sectors – 30 per cent in newspapers, 11 per cent in magazines, seven per cent in television, four per cent in radio and nine per cent in an online or digital sector. A third (35 per cent) were working elsewhere. Of those in journalism jobs, 77 per cent said the NCTJ diploma was a necessity or an advantage.

Our diploma is designed to equip students with the practical skills employers look for. It entails mandatory units in news reporting, multimedia portfolio, ethics, media law and regulation, public affairs and shorthand for journalists, and at least two optional units, such as media law court reporting, video journalism for online, sports journalism or broadcast journalism.

The 82 per cent figure for those in work that I mentioned at the start applied to those who completed the courses, irrespective of whether they had actually passed the diploma. When we look at those who passed, we see 96 per cent of those who attained the gold standard – grades A – C in all modules and 100 words per minute in the shorthand examination – in employment, 90 per cent of those who attained diploma standard and 72 per cent of those who did not actually complete their diploma.

It would have been embarrassing for us if students with the gold standard were not getting anywhere: happily they are. According to the survey, they were more likely to be in a permanent job (68 per cent) and more likely to be in a job that was related to journalism (86 per cent).

The results are encouraging, but we take nothing for granted. As the demands of the media develop, so must our courses and qualifications. We’d like to do something about the salaries too, but they are beyond our control.

The full report can be viewed on the NCTJ website.


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  • July 21, 2015 at 8:59 am

    This report is based on only 205 responses after 1,096 former students were approached.

    If my maths are correct, using the report figures, 168.1 people (82% of 205) have found work following an NCTJ course.

    35% of these are NOT working in journalism according to the report.

    I calculate that as 109.2 people who are working as journalists out of 1,096 students who attended NCTJ courses = 9.96%

    Over 30% of the people who responded earn less than £15,000

    As the story states: “All journalists should be sceptical about surveys, which have become the basis for too many news stories. It is easy to make sweeping assertions involving big populations on the basis of small sample sizes.”

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  • July 21, 2015 at 9:16 am

    It doesn’t take a survey to work that one out; while redundancies happen almost daily, students are still being churned out from unis and colleges almost everywhere with journalism qualifications. One day someone will work out there’s nowhere for the vast majority of them to go.

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  • July 21, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Very helpful, Stato, for those whose maths are not up to scratch.
    From my understanding, the real average salaries from the median figure cited above will be more like £14,000-£16,000 p.a. rather than the £17,000 quoted.

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  • July 21, 2015 at 9:52 am

    One of the most useful tools in journalism/media, and possibly the hardest to teach, is an aptitude for mental arithmetic and the use of percentages and fractions to beef up story presentation.
    The NCTJ snapshot suggests only half of the 1000-plus trainees are in media jobs – IF the 205 survey responses are a reasonable guide.
    But the bigger question is whether the explosion in ALL university media courses is value for money for students saddled with the debt for decades to come.

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  • August 10, 2015 at 1:35 am

    I’ve been involved in teaching journalism for over 25 years and one thing stands out: Students need to think beyond the constraints of newspapers and magazines, radio and TV. Our adaptive thinkers find jobs in book publishing, writing for websites, commercial blogs etc. That’s where the bigger paydays are. Using journalism skills to write ebooks is another avenue. We suggest to our NZIBS students to broaden their horizons. A few of our NZ-based journalist people write for UK-based employers. My tip: Look outside the square. Think creatively. Do something no one else does. That’s why the All Blacks will win the Webb Ellis Cup. Again.

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